MATERNAL MOMENTS: PART 2

Happy Mashujaa Day Andreaders! Can we dig in into part 2 of Maternal Moments?

From the onset, once a pregnancy test turns positive, the next phase of life is to schedule the maiden antenatal clinic which for a matter of urgency, should be to bring along the other partner. Most tests will be done on the woman, but the most critical one if you ask me is the HIV test which is carried out to both partners. It’s important because it’s meant to safeguard the fetus while forming in the mother’s womb and for posterity purposes. Further, this session is meant to orient the couple on the pregnancy journey and of course establishing the first probable Expected Delivery Date (EDD) be it from the compass-like tool the clinician uses to the scan. Most scans are close to perfectly accurate at weeks 9 to week 22 since, beyond that, the fetus keeps growing pretty fast making it complex for the scan to capture all the organs in tandem and perfectly. My point is, don’t be surprised when at week 38 the scan suggests you are two weeks behind schedule hence throwing a spanner to all your plans. Recall, it’s perfectly normal to have more than one EDD since it’s a game of probability.

Something else, halfway through the pregnancy, the hospital where one is to deliver should be earnestly identified. And that said, there are parameters to observe when choosing a maternal hospital namely; cost, service oriented and distance. With the hard economic torrents remaining bullish to our present times, many of us find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. While you may wish to give your unborn baby a decent delivery-hospital in matters professional service, in most cases it’s pegged at a huge cost. Now, Kenyan hospitals are broadly classified into three classes; Private, mission and public hospitals. In most cases, Private hospitals score big on matters service delivery. What I mean is, that one’s patient has a very high likelihood of getting personalized and well-catered attention. However, the same Private hospitals are notorious for being sneaky and mischievous in their billing. You’ll find that there are so many charges which will cost you an arm and a leg since their darkest underbelly is manipulating bills anyway.  Hence it’s appropriate for one to be well prepared be it through a reliable insurance cover or moneywise.

Mission hospitals have shown lots of tremendous improvement on matters service delivery and besides, are not as expensive as most private hospitals. However, without a reliable cover too, be it, NHIF or employer cover or one that an individual has subscribed to, the billing can still be quite expensive. The good news with Public hospitals is that maternity is officially free at least with the Jubilee government regime. However, service delivery is highly compromised and too wanting, of course made worse by the prolonged Nurses’ strike which is over 4 months now. But do many of us have the luxury of an option? Of importance though, is to appreciate that NHIF cover is at its best currently. As long as one has a clean statement meaning they have zero defaults or penalties in their monthly premiums, one is expected to reap big especially if one’s patient is in a mission hospital. As a matter of fact, mission hospitals offering NHIF payment terms literally pay close to 98% of the maternity bills whether the patient had complications or not!

Thank God if the pregnancy is all smooth sailing, a few hiccups here and there notwithstanding. If complications come, that shouldn’t ever write off the joy of carrying a pregnancy. Count your blessings as you may know, a good number strive to conceive for years in vain. For some, they develop diabetic pregnancy caused by an increase in glucose in the body. To others, they succumb to blood pressure which if not managed well can put the life of the unborn in high risk (Preeclampsia). Some may have a history of miscarriages, bleeding from the onset, Ectopic pregnancy, Placenta Previa, Premature labor and birth and rhesus-factor incompatibilities. It’s highly advisable to seek services of a gynaecologist if experiencing some of these or more complications as early as possible in the gestation period. On a lighter note, positive energy is key as pregnancy moods are unpredictable. One day you wake up okay, the other you wake up with zero energies or moods that make you believe you should be bedridden.

As a first-time parent, there are things one tends to appreciate in the entire process of delivering a baby. That Labor is extremely tough but very much surmountable! The thing is, there are a lot of grey areas for our generation in matters labor experiences due to the disconnect in information sharing amongst ourselves and especially from our older peers brought about by cultural degradation, for lack of a better term. You’ll realize, many of us are clueless on the very basic signs of labor or if we have an idea, it’s very much fluid and unclear. From what I gathered, women go through labor very dynamically. There is never a clean script or uniformity; every woman has her own experience, in fact, different from one pregnancy to the other. Interestingly, in as much as labor is associated with crude pain, some don’t feel any pain at all, but a majority do experience havoc, confusion and anything in between.

Actually, I’m reliably told some carry their bibles and read from cover to cover all in an attempt to interrogate God what they could have done to warrant such pain. Others give their life to Jesus in the process, through confessing and taking an oath of being Christ’s followers while some take it a notch higher – They never at any juncture wish to spot their husbands walking around the labor ward or attempting to comfort them. They tend to blame them for all the ‘anguish’. The good thing is, once labor pains are concluded, everything settles down normally including the wild spirits of dissenting one’s husband’s in the open or hurling insults at them. In my community they say, a child travels from far to be delivered. By the way, men should keep off labor ward if they harbor any desires of having more babies. I tell you why; chances are, she can easily disown you upon meeting your sight in this room. Plus, it’s not fair watching your woman helplessly bite a metallic bed and kick everything in her vicinity including uprooting her weave, throwing off her phone and handbag and soliciting the baby to kindly pop out!

The following are the tell-tale signs to check out for or what can be referred to us the red signs in matters true labor stage; 1.) Be very careful when strong and regular contractions start building up. This shouldn’t be confused with false labor otherwise called Braxton Hicks contractions which normally have irregular contractions and are typically weak in strength if a woman changes position or takes a walk or rests. 2.) If her water breaks and consequently start leaking, one should rush to hospital immediately. 3.) Bloody vaginal discharge is another red sign that should alarm the person involved. 4.)  Lower back pains and nausea too should be taken seriously. More fundamentally, one should present herself to hospital if the EDD passes on with no signs as highlighted above have been experienced.

The next battleground after labor ordeal is the art of breastfeeding. Many first time mothers will attest, it’s never simple as it appears. From how to hold the baby to how to position the breast, can be challenging at first. In fact, to some, the challenge either lies in lack of milk at all, lack of sufficient milk, plenty of milk but the baby won’t breastfeed which could easily cause mastitis and nipple alignment challenges. Some of the tips in best practice when it comes to breastfeeding include; mother-infant tummies to be close together, the infant mouth to cover most of the areola (dark layout after the nipple), baby’s chin must touch the breast, the infant to have his/her mouth wide open before inserting the nipple, mother supporting the infant’s entire body, infant’s nose should be opposite the nipple and many others. Effective suckling can be determined through establishing if; Slow deep sucks and sometimes pausing while suckling (Infant’s suckling is irregular), infant’s chicks are round shape when suckling, baby releases breast when milk is fully finished, mother’s breasts feel relaxed. By the way, engorged breastfeeding can be undone through homemade ways that include massaging the breast with a warm hand towel or manually or electronically expressing the milk through a pump-milk equipment.

As an excited first time dad, you’ll be amazed by some small achievements like changing diapers, babysitting a 5 days infant which will include fathoming where to put your left and right arm (Most men will be fearful of handling an infant), composing lullaby songs and lulling the baby to sleep, helping in cleaning the infant and many other small wins like helping in massaging your woman’s breasts not boobs (mothers have breasts not boobs, and it comes with a price) when it clogs with excess milk, or taking charge in supporting her with or without a house girl. Some social media busybodies will cheapen these wins. They will joke on how superficial, contemporary husbands appear to be and how they can’t keep up with a successful career woman. Some cheap internet personas will write and lecture us in their newspaper columns on how marriage is not an achievement, but who cares; Life is all about the everyday small wins.

While at it, it will hit you that you wake up around 10am and only retire to bed not earlier than 1am after showering at 12am due to juggling from one task to the other be it cleaning the dishes, rushing to the market to get some green fodder, taking a bike to one Mr. Abdul who is a camel butcher to fetch the oxtail bone which you’ll use to make soup for your woman, to sifting the black beans (Njahe) and lentils grains(Kamande) to fermenting porridge from Mama Ngotho who is a self-made specialist in matters porridge flour for her clientele who’ll include breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, clients battling overweight issues, underweight people, slay queens trying to tame their tummy sizes, babies with appetite issues, terminal illness patients and many others.

Finally, watching your baby fall to sleep will be the most beautiful adventure your eyes will have fallen onto in recent times. You’ll desire to stick in there and stare her breathe life occasionally making smiles in her small dreams to much of your amusement. You’ll watch this soul with a clean life sheet and zero sins apart from what Jesus died for, follow your voice with her feeble neck and almost touch the palpable delight on your face.

Enough of maternal stuff

 

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DAD OF TWINS

Peter is a huge fan of my blog. In fact due to the amassed loyalty, I hear he is the self-appointed chairman of Andreaders in and outside of the country. It is that serious. He is one of those, when we run on each other always like, “by the way, was that storo true? The one you wrote about, last week.” If not, “Andrew, bana tumengonja sana, hujaandika kitu of late” (Andrew, we are getting impatient of your articles, its been awhile). Here he is now, on the spotlight. Pulled him over to the front line of Andreaders army and was like; dude, we can write about your twins and marriage life. He nodded yes sir. I sent him a questionnaire, which he gladly sent back armed with eagerness on how the article will turn out to be.

Dear Andreaders, here is the story of a dad and his twins.

I started off by asking Peter about the million dollar call that men from all walks of life fear most. Babe, I’m pregnant! If you want a man freeze to a statue, surprise him with something close to that statement. But that’s for the unmarried men. Nothing to worry for the married since in actual sense, they plan for this kind of responsibility so meticulously at least in most cases. And so for Peter, when his wife broke the news that she was pregnant, it didn’t turn out so much of a surprise. The surprise came through after, as you will shortly realise.

When your wife gets pregnant, of course as a man, one adjusts some routines and how we visualise life. It suddenly hits you, I will be a father soon, in a way more pronouncing than before she breaks the big news! And to Peter, how he adjusted is that he started helping on the household chores and dedicating all weekends and holidays to being with his wife. From the look of things, since they started courting, Peter, hadn’t seen the inside of his kitchen for god knows how long. And it goes without saying; when your wife gets pregnant, she automatically becomes the attention as the man staggers away to the rear of life.

Let’s talk about the first scan

“We hadn’t planned to do a scan but had to when she started feeling pains and discomfort in her lower abdomen. I immediately took her to the Sonographer early morning and we were given an appointment for 2 pm same day. I had to report to work so we agreed she would go see the Sonographer in the afternoon in the company of a good friend. She called me when she was queuing at the Sonographer’s room and I was just praying that all will turn out well. About 10 minutes later, she called. I was a bit worried this time because I didn’t know what to expect! She said “bae, imagine nimeambiwa niko na twins’’. I took a deep breath, woke up from my office seat and asked her, “what do you mean? Twins? How?’’ I thought she was kidding me! And she said, “yes, I wish you were here to listen to their heartbeats.’’ I drove to town immediately to meet her.”

I paused the question, did you expect twins?

“NO! All through, I never thought about twins! She didn’t have any history of twins from her family. Neither did my family have such a history expect for one case of two daughters for a cousin to my dad. So I would bet with my damn life that chances of getting twins were next to impossible, little did I know! Interestingly, my wife really love twins. We considered it an answered prayer.”

Top on the list on what men fear most, includes whether one will make a good dad. Whether they will make a balanced dad; funny, strict and responsible father, all at the same time. Or if they will turn out to be terrible fathers who will hardly bond with their kids; or will have kids come in the middle of their struggle with alcoholism or infidelity; or will deal with their teenage daughters as they slam doors and lock themselves in their rooms putting on earphones and leaving a resoundingly cold attitude placed on the bedroom door for dad to deal with.

Peter had this to say regarding being a father to girls.

“The best part about being a dad to girls is smashing stereotypes about perceptions regarding a cultured man. Moreover, I grew up in a family of boys only, hence this is a perfect opportunity that God has given me. I clean them whenever I get a chance, take them to doctor’s appointments and wake up in the middle of the night to attend to them. They have taught me to be soft and not so serious all the time besides making me do some silly character voices just to make them smile. More fascinating is that, they have taught me that cuddling before bedtime is mandatory for them to get a good sleep, otherwise we’ll have to deal with cries late at night. As a matter of fact, they’ve made me appreciate how important it is to be kind even when I don’t want to be. As they grow up, I want to instil in them that the sky is way below their limit. I will dare nurture them to responsible and highly independent girls who will wallow and glow with self-love and never bend over to mediocrity be it from men or the larger society.”

I have read and heard of weird pregnancy cravings and shiver to imagine what Kageshi will turn out to be in her gestation period. Will it include cravings for onions as I’m told some do and I hiding the table salt? Or will it be about strong desires for anything sour from milk to porridge? Or poor me, son of a peasant mother will be compelled to come with chocolates every evening if not rushing to my butcher Sir Kiogothe for some camel bones.

So, what was Peter’s experience with his wife’s bizarre cravings? He technically played safe with this particular query. Here is what he said; “none! I am happy that I didn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to go buy her roasted meat.” Marriage is tricky. In most cases it is driven by what the couple prioritise; be it peace of mind, respect, faithfulness, compromise and commitment. To some, it’s driven by the number of holiday tours, cars and postings on social media on their every turn and blink. Funny enough, the latter batch never involve us when their relationship goes south, with the same gist they use in the other aspects of their lives. In the end, winners in marriage platform are those that realise money has zero shit and shouldn’t overrule rationality and chastity. So, has marriage changed some areas of Peter’s personality? “Not very much but I would say Fatherhood has changed me in that I’ve learnt to give and receive love unconditionally.” He points out.

I indulged him on what was going through their mind on the eve of the Cesarean operation. Could they touch the tension in the house when one kid didn’t kick as used to? Or could be that the fear of the operation hadn’t hit them as to whether it would turn out smooth or awful.

“I was nervous but still counting my blessings for having twins as firstborns and for a fairly smooth pregnancy journey for my wife.”

What colour were the maternity ward walls…Did the colours kindle hope or fear

“The walls were white with some beautiful wall hangings. The wall hangings played a great role in reducing my stress levels.”

Did the room have running machines or knifes or scissors or people in green attires (forgive me for asking some silly questions)…what’s there in

“No machines or knifes, just the bed, sofa, wardrobe, a table, bed-cot for the twins and a blood transfusion stand. Worthy to note is that we opted for a room in the private wing since we needed a more spacious place, conducive for recuperating and also for hosting me as well, as I wanted to partake in the process of supporting my wife by fully being available for her. ”

Was the environment around the ward pinch silent

“Sometimes silent and other times you’d hear cries from newborns in different wards. Additionally, the fact that the hospital was next to a river, we could hear monkeys chattering. Before the operation the doctor came in and asked her to get prepared for the operation. She got dressed in a green gown, prayed together and accompanied her down stairs to a room near the theatre. I helped the nurses lift her to a movable bed and pushed it to the theatre door where I kissed her forehead as she was received by another group of nurses in the theatre.”

How long was the Cesarean process

“About two hours. That was the longest wait of my life!”

What was going through his mind when the operation was taking place? Was he fidgeting or trying to read some of those decade old magazines strewn about on the waiting bay to no avail or was is it about seeking inspiration from the art evoking wall paintings?

“I was doing rounds round the hospital! I was tirelessly trying not to think that the life of my wife and kids were in the hands of the doctors. You know there is that fear of the unexpected. I thank God that the operation was successful!”

When you were called by the doctor to meet the kids for the first time, how was it

“I was excited that I was officially a father, but anxious at the same time to know their genders since the last scan hadn’t revealed the gender of one twin.”

What training did the nurses conduct to you regarding handling the babies

“I was trained how to bottle-feed them with baby formula, change nappies, bathe them including cleaning and sterilising their feeding items.”

Three months down the line, what have you learned of kids

“One is that you have to be very patient with kids, show them love and always learn to give, with no expectations of returns.”

And running a family

“It’s an honour and a privilege I don’t take for granted, having a loving family to go home to after a long day at work. I consider myself hugely blessed to work hard for people who motivate me in life. Nothing beats family!”

I hear you change diapers and clean the babies. How is the experience for you

“They say that fathers are disinterested in their babies especially when they become restless and stubborn. Well, having been there for my wife throughout the pregnancy journey up to delivery, I know the value of babies. Together with her, we bathe the twins one after the other, I also change their diapers and their clothes if they mess up.”

Tell me about the bond with your daughters…describe it

“We have a strong bond! The secret is simple, babies like attention. I maximise on the opportunity when I’m feeding them, changing their diapers or dressing them. I try mumbling and focusing on them. I make silly faces and smiles until they smile back. In essence I communicate with them.”

Is it true daughters are close to their dads…is it something you’ve noted?

“It’s too early for me to tell, but at least when I get hold of them, they somehow stop crying. This means they recognise their dad.”

What type of a daddy are you? Can you carry your kids in public places; church or malls? By the way, I once saw a man carrying his daughter in church using a baby carrier bag and couldn’t help admire his boldness. He literally stole the show from the passii at the podium. You could see the faces from ladies trying to make those aaaawwwww moments.

“Yes! In fact, for most Sunday afternoons we normally take a walk around town as we do our shopping.”

How do you balance marriage and your boys’ relationships

“Dividing that precious time amongst family and friends is not easy! It takes an extra effort on my part and that’s of my friends to keep the friendship rolling on and my marriage working.”

Do you drink less or more and why; Time constraints or a decision you have made

“I drink less. Main reason being that I want to spend more time with my family. Before marriage, I would only drink over the weekends. It has always been my policy that I don’t drink if I am working the next day.”

What’s your experience with house girls so far

“Finding a good and reliable house help is difficult since it takes a lot when it comes to raising multiples but we thank God so far we have had a lot of help from family relatives and friends.”

I hear you do cycling with your boys over the weekends. Tell me more

“I joined the cycling club early last year. It’s a club of well-organized chaps. Some of the club members represent the country in International races. We cycle to interesting places like Mt Kenya forest and Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Cycling is quickly gaining a booming reputation. When I joined the club, there were about 10 members and by close of 2016, we were about 20 dedicated members. However, I decided to go slow on cycling over weekends to dedicate that time for family.”

You are such a Subaru lover and columnist Njoki Chege would detest you for that. Tell me about it

“My favourite Subaru is a Forester SG9. It’s an all-wheel drive Station Wagon with a 2.5litre turbocharged engine. 6-speed manual transmission. Manufacturers of Subarus have mastered the art of making Subaru owners very proud! I don’t drive a Subaru but I know one day I will be able to afford one. You know I like driving behind or next to Subaru’s! Those things are pretty cool!”

Your final remarks

“Being a dad is one of the most fulfilling titles a man can ever have but it takes a lot more than just being a breadwinner. There is a lot of sacrifice involved like time invested for family which comes at a cost of losing a few if not many friends, foregoing some of the things one used to do priory and working extra hard for one’s family to have the most decent upbringing. Of importance too is that, there is a lot of learning needed so that one can be part of each and every milestone in his family uptake. It takes a lot of love too, to run a family successfully!”

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com